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Human personality and its pathology


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Human personality and its pathology

  1. 1. Human personality and its pathology I.The most careful observation of what are known as mental diseases and defects justifiesthe conception of them as defects of personality in all its complexity. The behavior whichis looked upon as abnormal and unusual indicates that the personality is disorganized, orout of harmony with its environing circumstances. The psychopathological behaviors ofour everyday life represent peculiar slight failures to adapt ourselves to our surroundingsin a usual or expected manner. This attitude concerning mental disease is a symptom ofthe development of a series of valuable scientific conceptions concerning humanpersonality and human character. Human personality may now be looked upon as aphenomenon of science. It is an observable fact of our actual contact with concreteobjects, and therefore subject to serviceable interpretation. The critical study ofpersonality as a definite scientific phenomenon promises great value for the student ofsocial and ethical facts; it will provide such students with data concerning human actionand its motivation, whether moral or non-moral adjustments, or unusual maladjustmentsto the social, cultural, and physical surroundings. II.Personality may be analyzed for psychological descriptive purposes into two largecomponent factors. One of these comprises the actions which represent the actualmovements and behaviors of any particular person. In a broad way we have here the sumtotal of an individuals behavior or actions which are the direct visible signs of theindividuals nature. Included here are all the acts of the moral, religious, esthetic, social,scientific, commercial and economic relations. The other major component is a series ofmore permanent action elements, which may be considered potential behaviors. We maybest refer to these acts as dispositions or tendencies to action. When these dispositions ortendencies are actualizing themselves they influence the general direction which aresponse adjustment takes. In other words, whatever action an individual ever performs isdetermined by these dispositions which are cumulative responses centering around anoriginal tendency. The original tendencies represent the inherited phases of personalitywhich usually are modified by the actual experiences of the individual.Both the actual behaviors and the dispositions may be further divided into predominatelybehavioristic or mentalistic factors. This analysis is proposed with a clear view as to itsartificiality, but is undertaken in the interest of an understanding of the phenomena to bestudied. The predominantly behavioristic behaviors, which are immediate-response acts,are analyzable into the series of reflexes, habits, and instincts. Between these acts andthose which are predominantly mental there are such behaviors as emotions andvoluntary acts, which, properly speaking, are on the border-line. The outstandingprimarily mental acts are of course the perceptions, memories, and thought. It must beremembered that these functions are never isolated, but always factors or componentfunctions of large complex adjustments in which these acts partake in variouscombinations. Further, these complex acts have no meaning unless considered inconnection with the occasions under which they function, and this brings into relief themore permanent elements in personality, since every overt act is a product of the
  2. 2. stimulating conditions, and the organic-response dispositions. The predominantlybehavioristic dispositions include three types: namely, the muscular, glandular, andneural, which are capacities latent in the glandular, muscular and neural structures. Thesedispositions constitute the more permanent equipment of bodily functions necessary foradjustments to external conditions, and require only some definite stimulus-object tocause them to participate in a response act. It is clear then that the dispositions ortendencies to action are in a genuine way the personality,1 while the actual behaviorsmerely manifest this personality or its changes. It is obvious that what sort of person oneis to be depends a great deal upon these latent powers and their development. All thequalities of strength, beauty, and grace center about these factors. We need only refer tothe influence of the capacities of the pituitary, sexual, and other glands, to modify thequality of personality and its manifestations. 2On the mentalistic side we must point out the innate capacities of attention, impulse,discrimination, affection and others. These are phases of conscious behavior whichdefinitely stress the mental aspects of organic adjustments. These two sets of originaltendencies, namely, the behavioristic and mentalistic, are of course absolutely inseparablephases of a unit individual, and act as unit responses to provoking stimuli. The twomembers of the series of incipient actions are variously organized as instinctiveadjustments to environmental conditions and as such form the basis for all acts which theindividual performs. The dispositions are therefore both native and acquired, each onebeing a complex accretion of either native or acquired tendencies or both around aninnate core. At this point it may be well to observe that the personality is not in any sensea transcendent existence, but a concrete object developed from actual contact withsurrounding objects and persons.The development of human personality begins as process of organization of the originalinstinctive tendencies into instincts, which in contact with objects calling out someresponse result finally in the instinctive action. This process marks the first stage in thegrowth of character. The instincts are not uniformly developed action systems nor do theybegin to function simultaneously. Another difference between them is that they varywidely in their urge to action, or in other words, they require stimuli of differingintensities. The instincts of feeding, flight, locomotion, and curiosity may be consideredas appearing relatively early, while the instincts of gregariousness and sex among othersmay be looked upon as comparatively very powerful in function. The strength of someinstincts, notably those of sex and gregariousness, have influenced various writers tomake the entire complexity of human nature center around one or few instincts. When theindividual begins to use this organized equipment he prepares himself to acquire varioushabits of response and many incipient responses. The entire equipment of native andacquired action systems marks the capacity of an individual to adapt himself to thevarious circumstances which the surroundings and their changes call out. The furtherdevelopment of personality is a process of constant acquisition of new forms ofadaptations as the result of the modification of the original instinctive actions. Thisdevelopment parallels a concomitant development of complexity in the environment. Theinstinctive acts are genuinely modifiable elements of personality, a fact which is readilyunderstood when we recognize that they are in great part dependent upon the occasion
  3. 3. which makes them function. Attention must be directed to the fact that the instinctiveaction includes more than the innate tendency which actualizes itself as a simple randomconative response; it comprises also more than mere instincts which are organized ordirected random movements. Frequently instinctive actions are plentifully supplied withvarying degrees of intelligence, and when modified by various influencing conditionsbecome the intelligent acts which give value to personality. Similarly modified instinctiveactions develop into the habits of thought, the complex emotional responses, and thevoluntary behavior of highly adaptive persons.The occasion of the modification of these instinctive acts are the various contacts withobjects, other persons, groups and group-products such as customs, laws and othertangible and intangible institutions. Under these various molding influences the personbecomes changed both by way of passive submission and active response. The latterpoint illustrates the give and take which takes place in the course of the development of aperson. The individual not only is influenced by the group, but exerts a powerfulinfluence upon other individuals and the group.The acts of any particular person at any given time are represented by acquireddispositions in varying stages of development, coupled with original tendencies. Thisindicates the extreme complexity of the activities of a personality, which are alwaysintegrations of past activities perpetuated as action systems, complicated by persistingoriginal tendencies, and adapted to currently existing adjustment conditions.The products of the interaction of individuals and the groups in which they live areacquired dispositions to react in certain ways to surrounding objects and events. In theiraggregate these dispositions upon which all action depends, constitute human character orhuman nature. Such dispositions or potential acts may be classified as interests,sentiments, ideals, convictions, and beliefs. Other traits of character such as desires,ambitions, fears, shames, reverences and jealousies, are also preparations for acts ofvarious sorts. Some of these elements of personality are based upon accumulations ofinformation through past experiences; others are more emotional in their nature, whilestill others are primarily impulsive in type, depending upon the specific character of theirdevelopment. III.The normality of a person is a function of the harmony of his component action elements,and the efficiency of the person depends upon how well the particular combination ofaction systems fit in with the environmental conditions. Any serious misfit between theequipment of the personality and the surroundings may mean a disorganization of theaction propensities, which may result in maladjustment to the environment. The defectsof personality which may occur are of exceedingly various types, and can be roughlydescribed as follow:Pathological personalities may be due to imperfect development of the psycho-physicaltendencies. In such case, the individual is not fitted with a series of organized actionpropensities, which enable him to adapt himself to his surroundings. We have here apredisposition to forego the ordinary experiences which human individuals enjoy, and
  4. 4. this marks an original failure of the mental and behavioristic tendencies to so groupthemselves as to allow normal responses. Such a condition indicates not only a defect ofimmediate adjustment, but must result in a failure on the part of the individual to developany considerable degree of intelligence. The variations of this type of defect are of courseindefinite in number; the many degrees of uncoordination result in differing truncationsof personality. This factor accounts for the varieties of morons, imbeciles, idiots andmoral delinquents. the organization of certain specific mental tendencies with acorresponding lack of development of others, accounts for such capacities as areexhibited by "idiots savants." We observe frequently in what are otherwise usualindividuals the presence of some type of action tendency in an exaggerated or insufficientdegree. In most cases these inequalities of endowment or of organization are notobservable because the disadvantages which they cause are overcome by variouscompensations, or by especially favorable environmental conditions. The typical case ofuncoordination of original instinctive tendencies leaves the individual in an animal stageof development, and because he is born into a human environment we have that pitifulobject, the idiot. The viewpoint here suggested indicates at once an advantage over thealmost universally accepted doctrine which classifies the defects mentioned as cases ofretarded mental development. If we take speech as an example of conscious behavior wesee that the difficulty with the aments is that of a lack of organization of the whole set ofnative mental and bodily actions propensities. The development of speech and thecapacity to use it are present in the higher grade of defectives and decreasingly absent inthe lower one. Coordinate with this fact we find an undoubted progress in development ofpsychophysical organization from the idiots to the high grade morons. In the class ofdefectives known as aments we observe that the variation from the normal ranges fromthe idiots, who are confined to primitive behavior in response to physical surroundings, tothe morons who have an added capacity to adapt themselves to simple social conditions.The complex behaviors involving thought and voluntary action are found here in degreesof undevelopment.The next type of personality defect which we may consider is connected with a higherstage of human development. Here the original tendencies are entirely coordinated, butthe resulting actions are not adapted to the needs of the individual, with respect to hisenvironing circumstances. This is essentially a case of the development of unsuitableacquired tendencies, on a foundation coordinated and entirely functional original actionsystems. These defective personalities build up habits of thought and action which do notcomport with the surroundings, thus preventing adequate maintenance and development.As occasions for adjustment we must consider here a very complex environment or seriesof environments. Unlike the previous sort of defect which failed to provide the propermechanisms for adaptation to physical circumstances and simple social conditions wehave here disharmonies of complex social and cultural surroundings. The defectivepersons included in this group are incompetent to meet the requirements of the moral andsocial environment which demands adjustment. The importance of the development ofthe proper dispositions for a given environment can not be overestimated because everyaction of an individual is a specific function of adaptation to a specific object or event.We can indicate for practical purposes four fairly distinct types of faulty development ofdispositions, with a consequent production of abnormal individuals and actions.
  5. 5. We may take as our first case the personality of the moral delinquent. Students ofbehavior constantly meet with certain individuals who apparently can not meet therequirements of their moral surroundings. This is of course a problem of social harmonyand approval. These individuals have built up action systems which are entirelyincompatible with the environing society. Typical examples of these persons are thepathological liars and swindlers.3 Another type of abnormal person is the exhibitionistand other sexual male-factors. The abnormality concerned is a failure to check thedevelopment of unsocial action tendencies by the development of suitable habits of selfrestraint. These individuals permit their original propensities to organize themselves andto develop without due regard for social requirements and demands. Such individualsmay be very well adapted to care for themselves in the natural world, and in certain socialsurroundings, but there are phases of the social milieu which seem completely tooverwhelm them.The second type of defective personality which is accounted for by wrong development isthe paranoiac. This type of person form his early years builds up habits of shunningothers, is suspicious, and bears a general attitude of isolation and persecution. Thisattitude may also take the form of exaggerated self-regard and expand into a highlydeveloped stage of grandeur-delusion. The individual creates for himself a world farremoved from actual contact with natural events, and other individuals. This attitude ofremoval and isolation may finally culminate in a situation extremely harmful to theindividual himself and the persons with whom he comes into contact. There is alwaysgreat danger in the systematic organization of the behaviors and ideas of persecution andof grandeur, because they inevitably result in a situation inimical to society. One of theworst manifestations of these paranoiac behaviors is that which reaches the querulousform. Those persons developing the habits of seeking recourse to the law for all their ills,real and imaginary, may clog up the local judicial system and involve hundreds of people.In all these cases there is at the basis of the difficulty a separation of the individual fromhis immediate surroundings; a condition which breeds great mischief for the individualswith whom the paranoiac is associated. The paranoiac type of personality defect may bedistinguished from some of the other types by the fact that it is a slowly developingsystem of acquired reactions which are out of harmony with the requirements of thegroup in which the individual finds himself.We must consider next the great class of individuals who are grouped under the headingof psychoneurotics. Here are individuals whose original action tendencies groupthemselves into habits and volitions which unfit them to maintain their expected place insociety. They develop such reactions to their surroundings as to create greatinconsistencies in their experiences. Consequently the individuals responses are so out oftune with each other that he loses control over his environment. An English soldier saysof his obsessions, "I know Im a damned fool and its rot, but there it is; I can not helpmyself."4 The psychasthenics develop obsessions, impulsions, and fixed ideas all ofwhich are incipient tendencies of action which are extremely detrimental to the individualand his group. We find individuals exhibiting abnormal reactions of fear, and performingacts which are described as the pyromanias, arithmomanias and others. In this same class
  6. 6. are the persons who look with suspicion and doubt upon all the world and its objects.Such types are the so-called metaphysicians who can not go through a day withoutexperiencing the most violent anguish because they can not explain how the world wascreated or whether a God exists.The neurasthenics establish as elements of their personalities various inhibitions, oraction habits which interfere with the ordinary activities of normal persons. Theseindividuals are irritable, constantly fatigued, and in other ways incapacitated to carry ontheir usual activities. The neurasthenics cultivate idleness in all its forms, and makethemselves passive, helpless persons.In the various manifestations of the hysterical individuals we find evidence of thebuilding of peculiar reaction habits. We discover the most varied truncations ofpersonality along every line of conscious behavior. The hysterical person responds sodifferently to ordinary objects as to be branded as abnormal. The peculiar reactions areoften acquired as protective devices to meet particular needs, such as to shield one fromextraordinary circumstances, or normal conditions which appear difficult to theseparticular individuals. Hysterical reactions involving the ignoring of various sensorial andmemorial experiences indicate the acquisition of response tendencies which aresubstitutions for adjustments to unusual environmental conditions. The individualsfrequently lose their self-control and become entirely helpless.The building up of unserviceable reaction habits and tendencies finds its mechanism to aconsiderable extent in suggestion. There is always in these cases either a condition ofbeing greatly overwhelmed by external conditions, or the individual starts out with anunstable personality. By an unstable personality is meant the condition of organization ofinnate action tendencies which allows for useless and ineffective responses. We find thenaction systems built up which make for paralyses of various kinds; anesthesias, tactual,visual, and auditory defects aboulias and amnesias. The hysterias of war, which arereferred to as war and shell shock, show all types of acquisition of abnormal reactionsystems for protective purposes against unendurable external circumstances.5 In ageneral way we might look upon the development of hysterical individuals as personswhose instinctive tendencies can not harmonize and develop coordinately in theparticular environment in which they are thrown. The secret of the value in Freudism liesin the fact that the Freudians worked out fairly well the conflicts and confusions whichcenter about one of the important bases of human nature. When psychologists work outas well the mechanisms of development for the other equally important foundation stonesof human personality we shall have reached an important stage in understandingpersonality and its pathological states.In dementia praecox we find another pathological condition of personality which is theresult of the acquisition of unsuitable action systems. In a genuine sense also, the praecoxindividual is one in whom the innate action tendencies fail to harmonize, and thereforeseriously conflict. The result of this is the serious inhibition of the complex integration ofthe original simple acts, and a consequent incapacity to make correct adjustments.Typical examples of these unfortunate individuals are fond in what Hoch has termed the
  7. 7. "shut in" personality. Such persons develop response acts which tend to seclude them andcut them off from other individuals. They can not get into touch with the realities of life,and are abnormally prudish and religious. They do not at all fit into the social milieu inwhich they are doomed to spend their days.There are three classes of defects of personality which may be grouped under the generalcaption of disorganizations or disintegrations. These three cases show various kinds ofdissociation of the original and acquired tendencies after they are organized anddeveloped. In all these cases we have the breakup of the psychophysical organism withits mass of acquisitions resulting in a greater or lesser prominence of the bodilycomponents of the individual. In some cases the disintegration takes place as an atavisticreturn to a more primitive condition of reaction. We find the manic-depressiveindividuals dropping off the acquired action tendencies, and responding to theirexperiences as children do, or as primitive people. These disintegrated persons arelacking in their restraining influences which are generated by interaction with socialbeings and institutions. In the main these individuals become free and frank, and not onlycarry their hearts upon their sleeves, but persist in drawing attention to their display.These individuals openly confess their desires whatever they may be, offer all theinformation they may have about themselves, and in general give themselves whole-heartedly to those whom normal individuals would call strangers. In their display ofemotional reactions and flightiness of ideas, they exhibit in a marked way the reactions ofchildren. In the involutional cases there is a clear dropping off of the developed phases ofpersonality and a return to a primitive condition.The type of disintegration just discussed may be considered as a transverse splitting off ofthe acquired action tendencies, and thus different from the next type, which marks alongitudinal dissociation of the components of personality. In the various kinds of doubleand multiple personalities we have individuals whose original reaction systems fail to beharmonized by their experiences and thus can be split of from each other together withthe acquisitions built upon them. It is thus possible to find within a single individualseveral personalities capable of separation under various circumstances. Theseindividuals differ from normal persons who of course always comprise numerous selves,in that the latter have their experiences unified and harmonious. The various selvesrepresent responses to varying surrounding conditions, all of which are threads of acommon fabrics in what my be called a single piece of cloth.Finally, we must consider the confusional disintegration of personality in which there is ageneral dismemberment of the innate and acquired action systems in no definite order. Inthe various types of paresis we have examples of the complete degeneration ofpersonality with concomitant deteriorations of its anatomical supports to the stage of totalextinction. The paretics show us cases in which there is a rapid disintegration of theacquired action systems with undue and unlicensed exercise of the instinctive actiontendencies. In these cases we find a progressive severance of the individual from hisnormal surroundings and occupations with a striking sense of confusion in the entireprocedure. When the elemental action tendencies are released from the accretion ofsocially molded tendencies, they have no survival functions and the individual becomes
  8. 8. soon a hopeless and helpless wreck, a depersonalized mass of plastic clay. IV.The facts of pathological personalities offer numerous warnings against considering themas definite fixed kinds of defects. Any of the types may be affected in several differentways. The classifications of defects which have been made are approximations to actualconditions and serve to illustrate the fundamental hypothesis concerning the nature ofhuman disintegrations, which have been known as mental diseases. We might describeany specific defect as predominantly of one type or other, although it may at the sametime take on any of the other forms. Human personality is a dynamic object of extremecomplexity, and can not be assumed to function in an inflexible and constant manner. Thedisintregrations of personality can not be reduced to rigidity, because personality can notin any sense be said to develop in a regular and orderly way but rather in a complex hitand miss interaction of psychophysical organisms, under extremely variable conditions ofexternal circumstances.The study of human personality and its defects also indicates in a decisive way that thedispositions to actions as components of personality are not metaphysical entities. Theyare not existing potential acts, but represent such modifications in the mental and bodilyaspects of individual organization as to result in a specific act under certain definiteconditions of stimulation. This is a point which unfortunately has been overlooked byotherwise successful students of human behavior.Footnotes1 So far as behavior is concerned.2 "It is coming to be believed that one of the important factors of the involution period isthe atrophy of certain of the ductless glands"-- "and that certain of the disturbances of thisperiod of life are dependent upon an unbalanced relationship brought about between theseglands." White, Outlines of Psychiatry, 1918, p. 172.3 Cf. Healey, Pathological Lying: Accusation and Swindling, 1915.4 Eder, War Shock, 1917, p. 109.5 Cf. Donald, E. Gore, Lancet, March 9, 1918, p. 365.